Travelers want comfort above all else, study finds

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Priyanka Lakhani, regional commercial director Middle East, Africa and India at Collinson.
Priyanka Lakhani, regional commercial director Middle East, Africa and India at Collinson.

RIYADH — When it comes to a good travel experience, the most important factor is comfort, according to a new survey from Collinson, ‘Love the Journey’. Comfort is prioritized by 75% of KSA travelers, greatly out-ranking value for money (56%) and efficiency (44%). The survey, which will be released in its entirety later in the year, examines traveler wellbeing among more than 25,000 participants globally.

The world is traveling more than ever, with the International Air Transport Association predicting that 8.2 billion passengers will take to the sky each year by 2037. The Kingdom is achieving rapid growth in the aviation sector across its 28 domestic and international airports catering to over 100 million passengers in 2019.

Positioning itself as a prime tourist destination and key business hub in the Middle East, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently opened itself to the world with a historic visa launch making citizens of 49 countries eligible for an eVisa or Visa-On-Arrival. Within the first 10 days of implementation 24,000 foreign visitors entered the Kingdom.

There is also development taking place throughout the Kingdom involving both the upgrade of existing airports and the construction of new ones. More passengers mean bigger crowds and more stringent security requirements, adding up to longer queues and greater potential for disruption. These factors could be why travelers are increasingly prioritizing comfort over more functional concerns such as cost and efficiency.

Travelers crave comfort so much that they are increasingly willing to pay for additional benefits to help them secure it. The top two upgrade options are airport lounge access 34%, and extra legroom on the plane 24%.

Priyanka Lakhani, regional commercial director Middle East, Africa and India at Collinson, commented, “Saudi Arabia is one of the top outbound travel markets in the world, and with it set to surpass the $37 billion threshold by 2025, the expectation of the passenger journey continues to evolve, with comfort reigning supreme for the Saudi traveler. Passengers have come to know and expect a high level of satisfaction as part of their pre-flight experience.

“With the Kingdom now opening up to inbound tourism, we are set to see these high expectations that Saudi travelers have when traveling abroad, translate to their pre-flight experiences more locally too. The General Authority of Civil Aviation recently launched a series of initiatives aimed at improving the quality of services at the Kingdom’s airports, including pledging to the overall improvement of the customer experience. Increasing passenger expectations coupled with the investment in existing and new aviation infrastructure throughout the Kingdom, as well as the opening of its doors to tourism make this an extremely exciting time for Saudi aviation and airport operators. It presents a host of opportunity to fully understand and deliver on exactly what passengers’ value from their pre-flight, airport experience.”

Christopher Evans, joint CEO at Collinson, said: “For a long time, people have focused their attention on the destination, but we want people to get excited about the journey as a whole. Travel can be so much more than just a way of getting from A to B, and the industry needs to help travelers see this.”

“The competition to optimize and monetize the traveler journey is already heating up. The challenge and opportunity for travel benefit providers and airports is to understand where their propositions fit into the millions of unique travel journeys we see each day, and how they can positively impact travellers both in the moment and throughout the broader end-to-end experience.”

Evans added, “We also know that people are willing to pay, and are often impatient for, improved experiences. This is a trend we are seeing in society as a whole with the growth of the subscription economy, where people are choosing to pay individually for things they may once have waited to earn through a loyalty program.”

“There have never been so many opportunities for travelers to sit back and enjoy the journey, from airport lounges and shopping experiences, through to spa facilities and food-delivery-to-gate services. However, our research has made it clear that above all else, people crave a journey that’s comfortable. In order to provide this, the industry has to figure out how to work effectively as part of a complex ecosystem of providers, keeping a focus on the customer and the experience. This means working collaboratively to put the love of the journey front and center.”

Collinson will shortly be announcing the winners of its annual “Priority Pass Lounge of the Year” awards, which recognises the airport lounges providing the most exceptional travel experiences. The winner is decided based on Priority Pass member reviews, providing further insight into how the world’s best lounges are going above and beyond to build more comfort into travelers’ journeys. — SG


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